Weekly Jobless Claims Up Unexpectedly

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits (search) jumped 20,000 last week, the government said on Thursday in a report that continues to be somewhat elevated by hurricane-related claims.

First-time claims for state unemployment insurance aid rose to 350,000 in the week ended Oct. 23 from an upwardly revised 330,000 in the prior week, the Labor Department (search) said.

The rise in claims was larger than Wall Street economists' expectations for a rise to 338,000 from the prior week's original measure of 329,000.

A department analyst said there was no specific reason for the rise, but noted that there were still some hurricane-related claims embedded in the data, though the impact was lessening. Four hurricanes struck Florida and other southern states in August and September, throwing many people out of work.

Despite the increase in new claims, the four-week moving average fell for the second straight week, slipping to 343,250 from 348,750 in the prior period and its lowest since mid-September. Economists view the moving average as a more accurate measure of employment trends because it smoothes out weekly volatility.

Total benefit rolls rose by 38,000 to reach 2.82 million in the week ended Oct. 16, the latest period for which those figures are available.